Destructive Patterns

During an analysis of our data for the Depression Test on Queendom, we came across some eye-opening patterns. To some degree, we can assume that most people who take a depression assessment are feeling sad already – who would take a depression test if everything was going great in their life? For the most part, our data reflected this assumption. The average score on the test was 62 (on a scale from 0 to 100), indicating a moderate degree of depression. This in and of itself is something to talk about, but what I wanted to zero-in on is, what’s the difference between those who have been officially diagnosed with Depression and those who have not? There were several significant differences, with the diagnosed sample scoring higher on depression-related symptoms, but the un-diagnosed sample were not very far behind. What stood out for me the most were the destructive emotions/behaviors/thought patterns that I saw in the data. The reason hit home for me as to why so many people become depressed: because we are so terribly hard on ourselves. These are some of the destructive emotions, thought processes and behaviors we saw in our data:

Sleep Disturbance

  • Average score for diagnosed sample: 92
  • Average score for undiagnosed sample: 86

I think it would be a very accurate assumption that most people don’t get a restful night’s sleep. If you’ve found yourself lying awake at night staring at the ceiling (for reasons other than too much caffeine), it is likely because you’re going over (and over, and over) something that happened to you that day or week, or you’re worrying about a financial, relationship, or other problem.

Guilt and Shame

  • Average score for diagnosed sample: 62
  • Average score for undiagnosed sample: 58

I consider guilt and shame the most destructive human emotions. I’m talking about the kind of guilt and shame that WE put ourselves through long after we’ve been forgiven for something; mistakes and failures that we are unable to let go of – and that sometimes were uncontrollable/not totally our fault. It’s the “I should have done this instead of this. WHY did I do this?” What makes guilt and shame so destructive is that it can last for years. It’s a vicious cycle: we keep feeding these emotions by incessantly bringing up the past and beating ourselves up for issues that we need to move on from.

Maladaptive Perfectionism

  • Average score for diagnosed sample: 63
  • Average score for undiagnosed sample: 62

I found the perfect analogy (pun intended) to represent the fruitless pursuit of perfection. There’s a machine at my gym that I’ve dubbed “the stairway to hell”. It’s like a miniature escalator with four steps – you just keep climbing and climbing and climbing…but obviously never get anywhere. Now, there’s a difference between healthy perfectionism and maladaptive perfectionism: the former involves doing the best you can, and accepting (and learning from) your mistakes and failures. Unhealthy or maladaptive perfectionism is never being happy with what you’ve done, no matter how good it is. There is no room for error or failure, the two dirtiest words in an unhealthy perfectionist’s vocabulary. Evidently, this can lead to a very miserable existence. How can you be happy when no one, including yourself, lives up to your very high expectations?

Rumination

  • Average score for diagnosed sample: 72
  • Average score for undiagnosed sample: 71

There’s nothing wrong with giving a problem due consideration. It’s when the contemplation of said problem takes up most of your day (and night) that it becomes self-defeating. Over-thinking a problem rather than focusing on finding a solution magnifies its intensity. It ends being a lot worse than it really is, which in turn makes us feel worse. Rumination, like guilt and shame, feeds upon itself, making it a highly-destructive and potentially long-term pattern.

Internal Attribution of Failure

  • Average score for diagnosed sample: 69
  • Average score for undiagnosed sample: 65

It’s important to take responsibility for your failures – lessons can be learned and future mistakes can be prevented. Someone who has an internal attribution of failure interprets a lack of success as a result of their own actions. There is an essential distinction to point out here, however. When you attribute failure to unstable internal sources (e.g. lack of effort) it can help mobilize your strengths and increase your motivation in future encounters with similar situations. That’s the healthy side of internal attribution. The unhealthy side is when you attribute failure to stable internal sources (lack of ability, lack of intelligence). This can be detrimental to your self-esteem, perception of self-efficacy, and motivation, which in turn can lead to depression.

Attentional Bias

  • Average score for diagnosed sample: 69
  • Average score for undiagnosed sample: 65

Imagine that you’re in a room with 100 other people. 99 of these people tell you that you’re an amazing person and that they love you. 1 person tells you that you are the most despicable, awful, stupid, pathetic failure he or she has ever seen. Whose opinion would you be more likely to listen to and believe – the 99 people who love you or the 100th person who hates you? Those who answer the latter have what is called an “attentional bias”. They filter out all the positive aspects (of themselves, of others’ opinions) and hone in on the negative…even when there is an abundance of evidence that shows that they are amazing, successful, and wonderful people!

Fear of Criticism

  • Average score for diagnosed sample: 69
  • Average score for undiagnosed sample: 70

You may have noticed here that the undiagnosed sample scored higher than the diagnosed sample. The difference was not statistically significant, but I do have a theory as to why the undiagnosed group scored so high. In spite of the advances and noted successes of several therapeutic approaches for depression, the decision to seek the help of a therapist still carries a rather staunch stigma. It’s simple: we are worried about what other people think of us. We tend to expend a great deal of physical, mental, and emotional energy trying to live up to other people’s expectations…and it’s just so fruitless. No matter what we do, we will never be able to make everyone happy. We need to realize that they only approval and acceptance we require is our own (which itself can be a challenge). I think it was Dr. John Demartini who said that “When the voice and the vision on the inside becomes more profound and more clear and loud than the opinions on the outside, you’ve mastered your life.”

What is your opinion of the self-destructive patterns mentioned above? Share your comments below!

Join me for next week’s discussion on perfectionism!

Insightfully yours,

Queen D

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s